Baptism & The Promise of God
These are portions from the second in our series on baptism, from the Second Sunday in Lent, 2018. For the full text, see the Week 2 Message in the side menu for Lent 2018.
Baptism is water joined with God’s word. And when we say “God’s word” we don’t mean some specific Bible verse, we mean it is joined with God’s promise, with the breadth and depth and heart of God’s speech to us. We are talking about that living voice of God that says: “You are mine,” “You are loved,” “You are chosen,” You are sent.” … It is not some individual Bible passage that is attached to the water, but God’s promise to save.
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A promise spoken, however, must be heard and trusted. I can say to my daughter “I will pick you up after school,” but if she doesn’t trust that promise, she won’t be waiting, and there will be no ride home together. I can say to my wife, “I’ll pick up milk on my way home,” but if she doesn’t trust me to do it, we end up with two gallons of milk in the refrigerator.
Most of our promises are pretty frail and so we learn not to trust them – at least, not to trust them completely. But God’s promise is not frail. It is worthy of our trust.
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Trust takes hold of the promise and allows the promise to be effective in our lives. If God here promises to forgive us, but we do not trust that promise, then are hearts are not set free. Then the guilt remains. Or the guilt gets shoved aside and our hearts turn cold and hard. Baptism contains a great and precious promise. But it is our trust in and fidelity to that promise that makes the promise powerful in our lives.
Baptism isn’t magic. It doesn’t work just because we said the magic formula and did the prescribed actions. It is a promise. And this promise stands whether we trust it or not. The promise remains valid even if we don’t turn to it until we’re at our deathbed. But without trust, the promise can bear no fruit in our lives. It cannot create in us God’s peace, hope, joy and love. Unless we trust the promise it cannot free us from fear and shame. Unless we trust the promise, it cannot free us to love God and neighbor.
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We can’t will ourselves into trusting God’s promise. Trust isn’t created that way. But what we can do is keep coming back again and again to hear the promise because, each time we hear it, we dare to trust it a little more.
You are mine. I have washed you. I have brought you to my table. I have joined you to Christ. I have lifted away the burden of all your sins. I have breathed my Spirit upon you. I have released you to go and live my mercy in the world.
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Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADover_Kirke-d%C3%B8befont.jpg By user:Nico-dk / Nils Jepsen (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons