It Begins With Baptism
January 13, 2019 | Lisa Degrenia
Passage: Matthew 3:11-17
Rev. Janet Wolf telling the story of Fayette
In new members’ class we talked about baptism: this holy moment when we are named by God’s grace with such power it won’t come undone.
Fayette was there—a woman living on the streets, struggling with mental illness and lupus. She loved the part about baptism and would ask over and over, “And when I’m baptized, I am . . . ?” We soon learned to respond, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she’d say, and then we could go back to our discussion.
The big day came. Fayette went under, came up sputtering, and cried, “And now I am . . . ?” And we all said, “Beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold.” “Oh, yes!” she shouted as she danced all around the fellowship hall.
Two months later I got a call. Fayette had been beaten and raped and was at the county hospital. So I went. I could see her from a distance, pacing back and forth. When I got to the door, I heard, “I am beloved . . . ” She turned, saw me, and said, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and. . . . ” Catching sight of herself in the mirror— hair sticking up, blood and tears streaking her face, dress torn, dirty, and rebuttoned askew, she started again, “I am beloved, precious child of God, and . . . ” She looked in the mirror again and declared, “ . . . and God is still working on me. If you come back tomorrow, I’ll be so beautiful I’ll take your breath away!”
In a world that pronounces so many of us “not good enough,” what might it mean to believe that our true identity is chosen, precious, and beloved?
It begins with baptism
Reading: Matthew 3:11, 13-17 NRSV
Chosen, Beloved, Blessed. It all starts with Baptism.
Where do we find our Identity?
- What family, country, neighborhood we were born into
- Our job, school, the team we follow
We can find our identity in so many different places. But those measures of identity will fade away. They are not lasting. This is lasting. "This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. This is my daughter, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
This is who you are in Christ. It so strong, so rooted, it goes beyond circumstance. It goes beyond disease. It goes beyond death.
Identity begins with baptism. But there’s more!
- Verse 16, The heavens were opened to him
- Verse 16, The Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him
- Verse 11, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire
It all begins with baptism. This naming, claiming, and identity begins with baptism and empowering begins with baptism.
It doesn't stop or end with baptism. It begins with baptism. This is where Jesus begins his public ministry, the three years leading up to his death and resurrection. The healing, the preaching, the welcoming, the teaching, the work of justice and saving.
It's not just the beginning for Jesus, it's also the beginning for us. Baptism is the ordination of every follower of Jesus Christ into the priesthood of all believers.
Jesus didn't come and die and rise again so you could be a member of a church. Jesus came and died and rose again so you could be a missionary. A missionary in whatever way that looks like for you. A missionary to your family, co-workers, neighborhood, the folks you hang out with... whatever that looks like.
It's so important and it will take so much of us we too must remember who we are and we too must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Baptism of the Christ with Dove by Daniel Bonnell. What do you notice? What does it remind us of?
- movement of the painting
- power of the colors, fire colors
- light radiating
- submission and humility of Christ
- you see the crucifixion
- the dove representing the Holy Spirit
- Jesus' arms match the dove wings
- One Christ's hands are down and one is up, death and victory/resurrection, fully human and fully divine
- of ripples of water radiating out into the world
What if every time we washed our faces, or stood beneath the shower, or were caught in a rainstorm, we remembered and reaffirmed our baptism- our identity and our empowerment.
There's so much being said in this powerful painting because there is so much going on in the waters of baptism. When we come forward to the waters, there's so much we are reaffirming, recommitting to, and being thankful for.
Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Vows