November 28, 2016

Psalm 124

Genesis 8:1-19

Romans 6:1-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

[Romans 6:3]

100214 Lukas Reel - CropBaptisms were my favorite moments as a parish pastor.

In that sense, I was no different than most families in our American Christian society, who make a big deal of their child’s baptism.

But while the day itself may be a big deal for some, our emphasis on baptism seems to end there.

I can’t honestly say that I know of any parents who remind their children of their baptism (or remember their own, for that matter), or celebrate the anniversary of their baptism with anything similar to the attention we lavish on birthdays; even though I would emphasize this in pre-baptismal conferences,

In addition, my experience is that folks outside of deeply religious families have next to no sense of what baptism means or why it matters. I have baptized many children of couples in which at least one parent didn’t know the tradition well, and I would get the sense that while they were going along with a quaint tradition (for the sake of a spouse, parent, or grandparent), they had little appreciation of what was going on.

When we were baptized, each one of us had pronounced upon us the forgiveness and acceptance of God. We need not have anything more to do with thinking about ourselves as sinners.  We still are, of course, but we need not wallow in our sinfulness.  In fact, according to today’s reading from Romans, we can think of ourselves as chosen by God, as being selected by God for glory, so that, “we too might walk in newness of life.” 

Yet even as baptized children of God, as Christians, we are always going to struggle to find God’s path. We will always struggle with doubts and obstacles, wondering if God is really there, really caring about the choices we are making, looking for some sign from above, some words of affirmation.

The blessed Martin Luther passionately reminded people to “Remember your baptism!”  It is also said that any time he faced whatever demons tormented his life, he would respond with the words, “I am baptized.”

We all need reminding sometimes of the simplest, truest, most basic things in our lives.  We need reminding of answers to questions we didn’t even realize we were asking. Who are we?  What is our purpose?  What’s it all about?  Why am I going through all this difficulty?

The anticipation of the coming of the Messiah this Advent gives us pause to remember who we are.  May we always remember that we are baptized, “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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