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Baptism of Our Lord: A 3-Part Meditation About Baptism


A Methodist seminary professor named Ed Phillips said that our Baptismal theology includes 6 “C” words:  covenant, creation, crisis, church, called and coming reign.   

The first basin we gather around this morning is the cleansing basin, and it is all about the ‘C’ word CRISIS.  We believe that we humans are not all that we are meant to be.  That no matter how much we try and work to be our best selves, we fail.  We hurt ourselves, and one another.  We are hurt.  We cannot save ourselves.  

So, our first bowl of water, the cleansing basin, helps us to remember Grace—God’s grace abounds.  It is not about what WE do, but what God does.  So, our first scripture has us coming to God with our whole selves, our failures, our dismays, our pain and asking God for relief, for forgiveness, for preservation.  

The words are beautiful.  “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”  Let’s together say the words of Psalm 25 as printed in your bulletin, praying right now for God’s grace.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I a lonely and afflicted. 

Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out my distress. 

Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 

Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. 

O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 

May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. “

Baptism is about acknowledging the difficulty of our journey, our lives.  It’s about admitting our need for forgiveness and receiving it!  The water is a beautiful sign of cleansing, of washing away, of forgiveness!  In baptism we are taught that the person becomes guiltless, pure, all the while continuing to be full of ‘evil inclinations.’  We’re not made perfect, we are cleansed!  

Martin Luther said the ‘old was wholly drowned by the grace of God!”  Therefore, throughout our lives, daily really, we are to recall with hope that we have been washed clean, forgiven in baptism.  And we are to take consolation in the cleansing!  We are to live our lives in confidence of this forgiveness until death!  But we are human and so often we hold on to our faults, our failings, our hurts, our sins.   

We don’t release them into the cleansing waters but cling on to them tightly.  This is not good for us!  This is not what God intends!  So today, in remembrance of your own baptism, we prayed the Psalm and now I invite you to release, let go of whatever it is you want to be washed free of.  

Please take the piece of paper and pen the ushers gave you.  If you need a piece of paper, please raise your hand and the ushers will bring one to you.  We are going to take some time for you to write down on that paper what it is that you would like to let go of.  

This is just for yourself — it is between you and God so be honest. Maybe you have a lot to say and journal to God.  Or maybe you write down a word or two about what it is you are releasing.  After you write down your word or words, I invite you to close your eyes and pray, meditate on the words sung as well on the words that flow from your heart.


Our second bowl of water is our baptismal font—one that has been with this congregation since the beginning when this community of believers gathered in1888.  

The first C word We remember is COVENANT—the Covenant that the waters of baptism proclaim—between God and us and us with each other! 

In baptism, God promises “not to count my sin against me!”  and God keeps God’s promises!  God covenants with us — that is pretty amazing.  You might recall the Covenants God made with Noah, Abraham and Moses in the first book of our Scriptures!   Have you ever thought that God has made a covenant with YOU?  He has. 

And He names and claims us!  In our baptismal liturgy we actually say “Skylar Rose, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked by the cross of Christ forever.”  It’s as if the heavens open for us too and the voice of God says you are my child, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.  

We probably won’t have the Holy Spirit appear in bodily form like a dove but that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit isn’t dancing, celebrating and present with us too!  Why because we are beloved!!   As we remember our baptism, we are to remember OUR BELOVEDNESS!  

After being baptized, the minister then uses anointing oil and physically traces a cross on the baptized person’s forehead.  The word Christ means anointed one and so in baptism, the baptized are anointed, sealed, as was Christ, when they are marked with the cross.  


Another “C” word that we use when we think of baptism is Creation. We proclaim that we are a new CREATION in Christ!  The old has died, the new has arisen out of the grave.  We are risen in Christ.  The waters have birthed a new creation in us.  

I learned this week that the literal translation of the word birth in Italian means give to the light!  In baptism we are birthed, we are given to the light!  Did you know that That is why the ancient church did baptisms at dawn on Easter morning?  

Gathering in the darkness of the new day, they waited for the sun to rise, coming out of the water as the light of the day broke forth.  They were called “Illuminate”  as ones to whom light was given.  Our ancient brothers and sisters really made use of the Rich symbolism—and while we don’t typically baptize people at 4 a.m. on Easter morning, we still give a candle to the newly baptized as has been done for 2,000 years!  The person is a new creation birthed and given to the light!

In baptism we are made members of the CHURCH universal (we’ll talk more about that in the 3rd meditation).  But this second bowl of water, the baptismal waters, is to remind you that you are beloved of God!  Forever! In thanksgiving, let us sing O living breath of God as a prayer in song.


The third bowl in today’s journey of discipleship, our remembrance of baptism, is the called the servants basin.  

In baptism we are made members of the body of Christ, the CHURCH universal!  Remember the covenant is one God makes with us but it is also a covenant between us and the other baptized.  The gift of baptism is not only for ourselves but for the community, the church, and the people of God as a whole.  1 Cor 12:13 says we were all baptized into one body.  

Paul goes on in Galatians to say that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Baptism conveys a sense of absolute equality!  We all come out of the waters of baptism in the same spiritual condition!  Cleansed and members of the body of Christ.  Therefore, we are ALL called to follow Jesus’ example and command and serve one another.

And that is the next “C” word: CALLED.  Through baptism we are called into ministry!  Baptism engenders a profound sense of responsibility for our fellow members of the household of faith, and I would add the world!  

An important insight that Martin Luther had was relating our union to Christ in baptism to our priesthood as believers.  “Baptism into Christ makes us all priests: “For whoever comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated priest, bishop and pope…We are all priests of equal standing.”  

We are called to care for the spiritual welfare but also the material welfare of our fellow members of the body of Christ.  The two can’t be separated.  Deeds of love are a form of living out our baptism calling!  Though the work we have to do many differ, all Christians have been made priests though their union with Christ’s priesthood.  

Again, there is radical equality in this calling friends!  Everyone is CALLED – whether one is wealthy or living on the street, young or old, healthy or not, no matter one’s abilities, nationality, sexual orientation, ALL are called!  And this diversity in the body of Christ, the Church, is rich and intentional!

This 3rd bowl also has been called the basin of agency—we are called to be agents of transformation!  Working for the COMING REIGN of God (that is the last “C” word), we sometimes call it the kingdom of God, which is what Jesus ushered in.    

Our Bible study this morning was on the Kingdom of God and it highlighted that the Greek word that is often translated as kingdom is basilea and that it actually is a verb, it describes an action, not a literal place! The reign of God is found whenever and wherever God reigns.  Jesus insists that Basilea can be found on earth, in everyday lives, here and now.  

So, in baptism we join with the communion of saints, yes, all those who you might consider extraordinary, holier and mightier than you but along with all those other ordinary people just like you and me who did or are living a life of faith—shoveling snow, writing term papers, preparing meals, trying to be a decent spouse or parent or son or daughter or friend.  

We join with them in praying that the reign of God might come to us, our church, nation or world!  And we act to make it so!

The final phrase in the John passage is “you are blessed if you do them.”  

Baptism invites us to join Jesus and the communion of saints in living with God ruling our lives and world.  “Washing one another’s feet” and extending hospitality to anyone and everyone! Loving and serving those inside AND OUTSIDE our circle of concern is a blessing.  

We do this well as a community of faith but let’s realize that our actions, our response to God’s radical grace and the freedom it creates in us is a result of our baptism into Christ!  This is why we follow Jesus’ example and are the servants and messengers Jesus wants us to be!  The servant’s basin reminds us of this dimension of baptism.  

And it is a blessing, a true joy to serve.  Amen?  Amen!