The Proclamation of John the Baptist
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of Jesus
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
~ Mark 1:1-11 (NRSV)
We have already experienced baptism and baptism renewal today, and to be honest, what we have experienced far outweighs anything I’ll be able to talk about. But I just want to take a few minutes to clarify what baptism actually means, because it can get a little confusing sometimes.
In our Scripture reading today, John the Baptist encouraged people to be baptized, to repent, and to change their ways, to begin again. or sometimes we hear the phrase, “to be born again.” Here in Oldtown, through baptism, we invite others into the family of God. And just like all were welcomed to be baptized in the Jordan River, all are welcome to be baptized here! Remember what we always say, “Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!”
Now, we don’t preach repentance for baptism, the way John the Baptist did, but as we have already experienced this morning, we do ask for promises to be made. Because here in Oldtown, we do not take baptism lightly. Baptism is a sacrament, which means that it is something that Jesus not only taught us to do, but also commanded us to do.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 19 to 20, we hear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Friends, through the waters of baptism, God embraces us, giving us a big hug, and welcoming us into Christ’s church.
Baptism is an important part of many of our lives. Now, some of us remember our baptisms, and some of us do not, because we are baptized at different ages for different reasons. Depending on what kind of church we attended at the time, some of us were baptized by immersion, being put fully underwater like John the Baptist did in the Jordan River. And some of us had water placed on our foreheads like Betty and Steven did today. The form of baptism is not as important as something called the baptismal formula. The baptismal formula means that you were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit, just as Jesus commanded. And as long as that is true, your baptism is accepted across all Christian denominations. And it is important for us to remember that baptism is something that is only done once. Sure, you can remember or reaffirm your baptism, like we did today, but the actual sacrament of baptism is only done once and it lasts forever!
By a show of hands, how many people remember their baptism? Now, I know that I am putting you all on the spot a little bit, but would anyone like to share a word or two of where and how they were baptized?
I remember the day here in Oldtown that we baptized three generations: Nolan, his mom Hope, and his grandmother Valerie. I also remember the day that we baptized eight siblings! Now, sometimes we baptize infants, sometimes teenagers, and sometimes adults. Sometimes we baptize crying babies or sleeping babies, and some like the water, and some don’t. But the stories of our baptisms are sacred in themselves.
Here in Oldtown, there is another important part to all of our baptisms: our baptismal font. It is made of very old wood, wood from the early 1800s, because this font is made from wood that came from the original church steeple. Jim Brinson, one of our deacons, made the baptismal font, and it was dedicated in honor and remembrance of one of our beloved deacons, Holly Schoonmaker, who passed away.
In the center of the font is the bowl that has been used for baptisms for generations, the bowl that I took out and used for our baptismal renewals today. And that is actually the bowl that was used when I was baptized here in Oldtown. I remember that day because I was twelve years old, and it happened right here. I remember what I wore, and who was there, but more importantly, I remember feeling so loved by God and by this church family.
Friends, as you can see, there are so many stories surrounding the sacredness of baptism: stories of John the Baptist, stories of the Jordan River, stories of Jesus, stories of the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism, stories of the ordinary becoming extraordinary, stories of infants, and children, and teenagers, and adults all being welcomed into the family of God. And stories about YOU!
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, take some time to remember your baptism, because by remembering it and honoring it, you keep it holy. Share the story with someone. Remember the people that surrounded you, and never ever forget that you are a beloved Child of God and that God loves you unconditionally!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!